NASA this weekend launched a first-of-its-kind asteroid mission to study the two large clusters of space rocks around Jupiter that scientists believe formed the outer planets of the solar system. Remnants of primary material.
The mission, named Lucy, is set to detect a record-breaking number of asteroids over the next 12 years after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Saturday morning.
The spacecraft is due to fly by an asteroid in the main belt of the Solar System in April 2025, before being flown by seven of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids starting in August 2027.
Its path will circle Earth three times thanks to a gravity assist, making it the first spacecraft to return from the outer Solar System to the vicinity of our planet.
Trojan asteroids, which take their name from characters in Greek mythology, circle the Sun in two clusters, with one group traveling ahead of Jupiter and the other behind it.
Scientists hope that a closer study of these asteroids will help to unravel how the planets in our solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they ended up in their current configurations.
“Trojan asteroids are leftovers from the early days of our solar system, effectively fossils of planet formation,” principal mission investigator Harold Levison, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, told NASA.
The US space agency has also said that no other single mission in the history of space exploration has been designed to visit several different objects independently orbiting the Sun.
Lucy, which takes its name from a fossilized human ancestor whose skeleton provides unique insights into human evolution, is over 14 meters in size from tip to tip – most of which is used to power spacecraft. Huge solar panels.
All of its equipment and the two-metre-high antenna needed for communication with Earth will be located on a much smaller spacecraft body.
The Lucy fossil, discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, was in turn named after the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”—repeatedly played at the excavation crew’s expedition camp.
Additional reporting by agencies
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /